American Beech

Fagus grandifolia


(photo: Wikimedia – Marqqq)

The American beech is a shade-tolerant species, favoring shade more than other trees, commonly found in forests in the final stage of succession.  It casts dense shade and has an extensive network of shallow, fibrous surface roots that make gardening underneath it almost impossible. Because American beech needs plenty of moisture and rich soil to thrive, it naturally occurs in bottom-land forests. [2]

American Beech is an important tree in forestry. The wood is heavy, hard, tough and strong, and until the advent of power tools in the 20th century, lumbering beech trees were often left uncut to grow.  s a result, many areas today still have extensive groves of old beeches that would not otherwise occur. Today, the wood is harvested for uses such as flooring, containers, furniture, handles and woodenware. [2]

Like European beech bark, the American beech bark is smooth and uniform, making it an attraction for vandals to carve names, dates, gang symbols, and other material into its surface. [3] as shown in this photo.

One such beech tree in Louisville, Kentucky, in what is now the southern part of Iroquois Park, bore the legend “D. Boone kilt a bar” and the year in the late 18th century. This carving was first reported in the 19th century, but is believed to have not been produced by Boone since he was an educated man who would not have written something so semi-literate. The beech finally fell over in 1916 during a storm; its age was estimated at around 325 years. [2]

Supported Wildlife and Other Uses

The American Beech attracts birds and butterflies.  Beech nuts are eaten by all manner of wildlife.  It is an excellent nesting site and provides fruit for birds and mammals. [4]

Identification and Description


American Beech Leaf & Seed

The American Beech is a deciduous tree growing to 115 feet tall, with smooth, silver-gray bark.  The leaves are dark green, simple and sparsely-toothed with small teeth that terminate each vein.  The winter twigs are distinctive among North American trees, being long and slender with two rows of overlapping scales on the buds.  Beech buds are distinctly thin and long, resembling cigars; this characteristic makes beech trees relatively easy to identify. [2]

Adapted to Georgia hardiness zones: 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b.    Atlanta is zone 7b.

Champion American Beech Trees in Atlanta and Georgia

American Beech Champions
Atlanta Champion Trees – full list
Georgia Champion Trees – full list
Intown Hawk – Condensed Atlanta and Georgia List

References and Additional Information

[1]  UGA Extension: Native Plants for Georgia Part I: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines (B 987) – American Beech
[2]  Wikipedia: Fagus grandifolia
[3]  David Martin: Smooth Bark Compulsion
[4]  Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center: Fagus grandifolia
[5]  Missouri Botanical Garden: Fagus grandifolia